Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, storytelling

My 20-year anniversary of…

…my senior recital.

For those who didn’t go through this, a senior recital is a big deal (for most of us). As an education major, I was required to perform a 30-minute solo recital as one of my graduation requirements. (I could have instead performed a 30-minute jury, which means just for a panel of professors who would grade it. Either way, it’s a 30-minute performance.) Many of us included some sort of duet or small ensemble as our final piece, and the ed majors usually shared recitals, taking turns, making an hour-long performance between the two.

Anyway, for anyone, it’s a lot of work. And it’s a little intimidating for those of us who were more accustomed to performing in an ensemble.

But my sophomore year of college, I developed some random pain issue in my right pinky finger. I was able to play my flute for 10-15 minutes each day before the pain caused me to stop. It would linger for hours. I also couldn’t write and ended up buying a laptop to be able to take notes.

It was written off by doctors as tendonitis.

I stopped taking lessons and participating in ensembles so it could rest. Six months later, with no improvement, I was given warning that I couldn’t continue in the music department without lessons or ensembles, since they were required for graduation.

And so I stopped playing flute and started playing trombone. Trombone doesn’t use any fingers.

Being a beginner in college was terrible. I took lessons with someone in the trombone studio, and at the end of my junior year, I successfully re-auditioned into the department on trombone.

Needing to be good enough to give a recital before I could graduate, I was immediately off the four-year plan. I practiced as much as I could, but like any other physical skill, the muscles need to build strength and endurance.

By my second senior year, I was practicing two to three hours every day, in addition to time in ensembles. I was getting … less bad.

Now, I hadn’t been a great flute player at all, and I suspect expectations of me all around weren’t that high. I don’t really know, and it’s probably just as well.

But something happened in these years. I learned grit. I had a giant mindset change. I had been very fixed mindset. When I started college, it was “The people around me have been taking lessons for years and I’ve only been for one year. I’ll never catch up or be as good.”

At the time, I had no idea what else I would do with my life, so switching to another instrument and continuing on the same path was the only viable option. I had to catch up and be as good.

By my third (and final) senior year, my private teacher suggested I was playing well enough to pass a jury. There was no way I was giving a jury! I’ve done massive amounts of work to get here—I’m giving a recital!

And so I did. On April 18, 1999, a Sunday evening. In a satiny blue shirt and black pants. Sharing a recital with a sax player. I played well. I was excited and proud.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (with regards to things that require preparation and skill).

By the time I graduated, I had shifted to, “If I can get this good in this amount of time, what happens if I keep going?”

I found a teacher in NYC. I practiced three or four hours most days. In the financial desert of a teacher’s summer, I paid my bills playing gigs and teaching lessons.

All of that, 20 years later, is represented in this anniversary. A date I remember and at least give a head nod to every year.

At this point, I haven’t played a trombone in quite some time. Moving to Arizona wasn’t good for my playing, and when time became scarce, trombone was one of the things to go.

But the lessons I learned, the mindset shift—to say nothing of all the extra things I got to learn and do in two extra years of school and all of the amazing people I met on my musical journey—those have stayed with me. And maybe one of these days, I’ll pick the old horn back up and start over again.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, storytelling

I had a dream…

A week or so ago, I had a dream that I remembered when I woke up. A few details of it have stuck with me, and it’s been turning over in my head a bit…

The dream below; side comments in brackets:

I was racing my third Ironman. [I have never raced anything close to an Ironman in distance, but I have done a few sprint triathlons. An Ironman is a total of 140.6 miles; a sprint is about 16.]

The first two were successful. This one was out of order: first we swam, then we ran, then we biked. [Typically the order is swim, bike, run.]

I had completed the swim. I was near the end of the run, it was raining, and I was exhausted. The route went right past the hotel The Climbing Daddy and I were staying at, so I decided to stop in, get changed, and take a nap before continuing on to the bike. [This would definitely not be allowed in a race.]

I ended up sleeping for hours instead of minutes and woke up 15 minutes before the end of regulation. [Only times under 17 hours count.]

I was kicking myself for sleeping that long and was also annoyed that I had to finish the run to retrieve my bike.

I woke up thinking it was odd for lots of reasons, but it’s been poking at me off and on.

So what I’m taking from it for now is this:

I can do hard things. (I had completed two of these races prior.)

But when I do them out of order, they’re much harder, I tire more quickly, I make bad choices which lead to me not being able to do The Thing.

For practical application, I’m not entirely sure what The Thing is, or what I’m doing out of order, or if I even have control over the order. (I didn’t in the dream.) There are a few things in life I’m struggling with pretty hard, but I can’t (yet?) apply this to them, exactly.

So what I’m hanging onto now is: I can do hard things. Will let the rest fall as it will.



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Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, storytelling

How do you know when to give up? a personal story

I’ve wanted to leave teaching and go into health and wellness (which really is just another kind of teaching) for years.

At the advice of my trainer at the time, I went and got my personal trainer certification because it has a nutrition component and that would be good enough credential to do weight loss mentoring.

The amount of nutrition training in the cert was minimal. I didn’t feel equipped on paper to do it. (Kind of like being a doctor. But that’s another rant for another day.)

I opened a personal training business—Second Chance FitCenter—out of my living room (or formerly known as the living room—all equipment and empty space, no furniture).

I connected with a business mentor and through my work with her rebranded to just my name. Took on the belief that people care if you can help them, not if you have the right paperwork. Quit my day job. Was doing one-on-one fat loss mentoring, online accountability groups, webinars, make-and-take classes for personal care products and household cleaners, occasional larger clinics/speaking engagements, had a blog, had classes, and was still doing personal training. It was great. Everything was small (except the clinics), but it was fun, people had success, I got a lot of positive feedback.

But the marketing part. I’m a socially anxious introvert by nature (have worked on that a lot, and most people wouldn’t know it). But knowing how to connect with strangers to try to sell them stuff? Not anywhere in my skill set.

The mentor turned out not to be awesome and in a women business owners Facebook group, she soon thereafter was asking for advice doing exactly what she had been advising me on.

When I got divorced, I went back to teaching, but soon thereafter went back to school (while still working) so I could get a degree in health coaching and then be employable doing what I was unable to market myself into on my own.

The class schedule conflicted with my inflexible work schedule, and after trying to work more hours and take fewer classes (which was an internal-life disaster—more work hours sucked up substantially more brain space than just the extra time at work), I dropped out.

If I believed in destiny, fate, or other magical extrinsic forces playing games with us, I would say that being a health coach was not meant to be.

But I don’t. So instead, I’m just frustrated.

Writing here helps. Working on my book helps. Writing is one of my great loves.

But ultimately, most of my energy is still going to teaching.

(Let me take a moment to say: I love teaching kids how to play instruments and so many other things that are wrapped up in that. I do not love the circumstances through which I’m expected to do that at this point. If there was a teaching job with a better schedule within a reasonable commute from here, I’d take it and, presumably, get my mojo back.)

My wandering thoughts really boil down to: how do you know if you’re working hard on a dead end? How do you know if you’re just working the wrong way, and that if you worked it differently, it would work? How do you find that path? How do you know when to give up?

And: do you know of any grants that would allow me to create and implement a health and wellness program at one of my schools? My principal is amenable. I just need some money…

Posted in education, gratitude, storytelling

Gratitude and musings: impactful teachers

I saw a meme that depicted a student climbing a ladder where the rungs were the arms of teachers and coaches. I saw a video of a recently-retired band teacher honored with a surprise concert and a massive instrument donation to his school. I reread a note from a former student who I had taught in 5th and 6th grade, written well after she’d entered adulthood, saying I was the best teacher she’d ever had.

I have been fortunate enough to have many great teachers in my life so far. Some of them, I remember only scattered details about content but remember how I felt. Some of them, I remember content. (Some of them weren’t explicitly in teacher roles.) But I’ve never had a teacher who left a positive impression on me who didn’t recognize my humanity.

One of the things I loved most about teaching when I started (and hate most about the limitation in my current assignment) was getting to know kids. They’re interesting and insightful and funny. Typically more willing to share what’s inside of them than adults are. In most teaching jobs that I have had, I’ve learned at least as much as I’ve taught, if not more.

I took time a few years ago to write thank you notes or letters to former teachers, if I knew how to get it to them. There was one who I feel deep gratitude and affection for, who I feel like I can’t say thank you enough times (though after a while, it would just be weird, so I did once or maybe twice and that’s all).

Jon Gluckman was my 7th grade English teacher. I had his class last period of the day.

As a 7th grader, I was introverted, shy, anxious, completely unable to make conversation with people unless I knew them well. (To my frustration, some of those remain true. Another post for another day.)

As a 7th grader, I hated being at home. I’ve mentioned bits and pieces around here, so for now we can just say: home was not an emotionally safe place to be.

As a 7th grader, I was in a new school. Our district at the time had K-6 elementary schools and one junior-senior high school.

As a 7th grader, I loved reading and writing. They had always been two of my favorite things to do, and I was endlessly disappointed in elementary school that I would test into gifted (pullout) math but not language.

I don’t remember when it started or how it started, but I would always pack up my books slowly and be the last one out of room 122.

One day, he asked me, “What’s the latest gossip?” That’s a question nearly anyone can answer, and so we talked. I have no idea what the latest gossip was at that point.

I don’t remember how often this happened, but we would talk for an hour or more after school on a regular basis. I would get in trouble at home for being late, so I used to make up clubs that I was in so I could stay for “meetings,” when really, I was hanging out and talking to Mr. Gluckman.

It filled a giant emotional hole in me. An adult who was interested in talking to me. On a regular basis.

For anyone whose mind went there, there was never anything remotely inappropriate about it.

I remember very little of we talked about. But I remember being safe.

When I moved on to 8th grade, I would sometimes stop by his room after school and say hello. And I started a “publication” called The Gossip that I gave him every so often. (I would love to see those now. I don’t have electronic or paper copies. I’m sure they were entertaining in the English Department office.)

Once I became a teacher, I thought back on those days and how much time he gave me. It still amazes me.

I took a creative writing class with him over the summer between 8th and 9th grades. I had a Facebook trip down memory lane about that class a few years ago. So many of us remember so many random details about it … so long ago. I can still recite Buffalo Bill’s by e.e. cummings. Thirty years later.

I took a creative writing independent study with him in 10th grade.

I’ve seen him a handful of times since. We’re going back East this summer. Maybe I’ll see if he’s around.

I wanted to use a picture of he and I for this post, but I don’t have any. Memories it is.

What teacher had a huge impact on you? Have you let them know?

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Posted in ebb & flow, motivation, storytelling

When it’s hard to write

I accepted a challenge on Halloween to blog daily.

Beginning November 1, I’ve shared my writing here every day.

Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes less so.

I was never worried about having enough to say; I have plenty of thoughts to share and writing is so much easier for me than talking.

I expected my biggest hurdle would be time, since that’s what it’s always been in the past. (Or that’s what I let it be.)

I was wrong.

It’s energy.

When I have a bad day at work and/or The Kid is needy and/or The Climbing Daddy is not amazing, it’s hard to write. There’s just not a lot of juice left, and the things that are in my brain are typically not appropriate to blog about.

I’ve been able to work through that. I feel that the quality of those posts is lower, but I don’t know what readership might think. My favorite posts and the favorite posts of the masses rarely match.

The biggest time factor is that I don’t write then hit publish. I write and let it sit and edit and maybe let it sit again and edit again and then hit publish.

I have never gone back to a post for the first edit and changed nothing. There is always something to tighten up. (If you do writing, you should edit, too. Just sayin’.)

Sometimes, the time between writing and editing is only an hour or two, but usually it’s a day or more. It’s not often that I write and you read on the same day.

I’m liking this challenge so far. I haven’t been working on my book as much as I’d like, but I have a plan in place to spend more time on that during and after spring break. The goal is to have it done in 2019.

I love it when someone discovers my blog and is interested enough to click through and keep reading. Happens from time to time. I add a follower or two every week; up to 31 so far. My mailing list, which receives a week’s worth of posts once a week, is steady.

But mostly, I’ve been writing every day, and that feels good.